MOLINE, Ill. — No. 18 Illinois continues its dominance over the West Division after easily dispatching Minnesota on Saturday. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan are on a collision course for a top-ranked season finale to settle the East Division champion.
Let's take a look at WQAD's Big Ten power rankings as we head into Week Eight.
14. Northwestern Wildcats (1-5)
Previous power ranking: 14
Analysis: After suffering five straight losses, Northwestern is coming off a much-needed bye week. They'll travel to Maryland on Saturday to face a rising Maryland team, who received the 33rd most votes in Sunday's AP poll.
This week: @ Maryland
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-3)
Previous power ranking: 12
Analysis: Rutgers is also coming off a bye week, following three straight losses. They'll have the opportunity to get back in the winning column against the Indiana team ranked one spot ahead.
This week: Hosts Indiana
12. Indiana Hoosiers (3-4)
Result: L, 38-33 vs. Maryland
Previous power ranking: 10
Analysis: Indiana kept it close with Maryland throughout Saturday's match, until Maryland scored two late fourth-quarter touchdowns. Indiana committed three turnovers which ultimately resulted in 17 Maryland points. The Indiana offense logged just 36 rushing yards on 32 carries. In contrast, the Indiana rushing defense was sliced apart for 172 rushing yards on 40 carries and three touchdowns for Maryland.
Indiana has now lost four straight, and with remaining matches against Penn state, Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue, they are at-risk of losing nine straight if they don't bounce back on Saturday against Rutgers.
This week: @ Rutgers
11. Wisconsin Badgers (3-4)
Result: L, 34-28 vs. Michigan State
Previous power ranking: 8
Analysis: Wisconsin lost a close double-overtime road match to Michigan State. Quarterback Graham Mertz completed just 14 of 24 passes for 131 yards and an interception. Running back Braelon Allen was the bright spot of the Badgers' offense, running for 123 yards on 29 carries.
Despite winning the time of possession battle, and leading 14-7 at halftime, two Badgers' turnovers proved costly, as the Spartans scored touchdowns off of both. Wisconsin's defense is a shell of its historical identity, allowing 32 points per conference match.
This week: Hosts Purdue
10. Michigan State Spartans (3-4)
Result: W, 34-28 vs. Wisconsin
Previous power ranking: 13
Analysis: Michigan State bounced back from four straight losses to defeat Wisconsin at home, behind efficient passing from quarterback Payton Thorne. Throne completed 21 of 28 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Michigan State secured a much needed win against Wisconsin, as they face a difficult remaining schedule. The Spartans have a bye this week to prepare for a daunting road match with their in-state rival in Week Nine.
This week: Bye
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4)
Result: L, 43-37 vs. Purdue
Previous power ranking: 11
Analysis: Interim head coach Mickey Joseph is quietly doing a remarkable job leading a Nebraska program that fired fifth-year head coach Scott Frost after Week Two. Quarterback Casey Thompson tossed two interceptions, but also converted some big throws that kept the Cornhuskers in the game.
After a Nebraska touchdown made the score 43-37 with 5:55 remaining in the game, the Huskers failed to stop the high-powered Purdue offense. The Boilermakers gained three consecutive first downs, and bled out the final six minutes. The Purdue passing game overwhelmed Nebraska's defense, who allowed 608 total yards.
Joseph has led the Huskers to victories over Indiana and Rutgers. Despite losing to Purdue, Nebraska traveled to a hostile West Lafayette and nearly knocked off the rising Boilermakers. That's why the Huskers move up in this week's rankings.
This week: Bye
8. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-3)
Previous power ranking: 9
Analysis: Iowa moves up a spot due to Wisconsin's loss, and new data which suggests Iowa's narrow 9-6 road loss to Illinois was perhaps more impressive than initially thought to be. Illinois is crushing teams, and Iowa almost stole one against the Illini in Week Six.
ESPN's football power index predicts that the Hawkeyes have just a 4.5% chance of winning on Saturday when they travel to Ohio State. Their last match-up took place in 2017, when unranked Iowa beat the No. 6 Buckeyes by a score of 55-24. The Hawkeyes will need a miracle, or multiple, in order to beat the Buckeyes in Columbus.
This week: @ No. 2 Ohio State
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-2)
Result: L, 26-14 vs. No. 24 Illinois
Previous power ranking: 7
Analysis: Minnesota traveled to Illinois as favorites to win, and left with a 26-14 thumping. The offense was constantly harassed by Illinois' top-ranked scoring defense, recording just 38 passing yards, and 180 total yards.
The Golden Gophers possessed the football for less than 20 minutes, and turned the ball over three times. Quarterback Tanner Morgan was knocked out of the game in the second half after taking a blow to the head, and his status for Saturday's game against Penn State remains undetermined.
The team that many chose to win the Big Ten West will be removed from the conference title conversation entirely if they don't win this week.
This week: @ No. 16 Penn State
6. Maryland Terrapins (5-2)
Result: W, 38-33 vs. Indiana
Previous power ranking: 6
Analysis: Maryland went on the road and defeated Indiana, 38-33. Maryland is now 5-2 with losses to Michigan and Purdue coming at a combined nine points.
The biggest news from the game was star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa being carted off the field a minute into the fourth quarter. He was hit as he threw by an Indiana player who awkwardly made impact with the side of Tagovailoa’s knee. He will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s home match against Northwestern.
This week: Hosts Northwestern
5. Purdue Boilermakers (5-2)
Result: W, 43-37 vs. Nebraska
Previous power ranking: 5
Analysis: It seemed like Nebraska might pull off the upset after taking just 55 seconds to score, making the score 43-37 with 5:55 remaining. However, Purdue showed why they're one of the top teams in the Big Ten West, answering with three first downs to drain the game's final six minutes.
Purdue received 95 votes in Sunday's AP poll, making them the No. 26 team in the country. Purdue's offense leads the Big Ten in first downs gained, and ranks second in passing offense. They'll put their high-powered offense to the test against a historically stronger opponent when they travel to Wisconsin on Saturday.
This week: @ Wisconsin
4. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)
Result: L, 41-17 vs. No. 5 Michigan
Previous power ranking: 3
Analysis: Penn State's offense had a rough outing against the Wolverines, being held to just three second-half points, and 10 points total. Penn State's rush defense was exposed badly, as Michigan ran for 418 yards on 55 carries.
Penn State fell six spots to No. 16 in this week's AP poll. What does it say about the state of the Big Ten when the conference's third best team gets pummeled by the conference's second best team? Not a great look for the Big Ten's middle tier of teams.
This week: Hosts Minnesota
3. Illinois Fighting Illini (6-1)
Result: W, 26-14 vs. Minnesota
Previous power ranking: 4
Analysis: The No. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini football team is undeniable after Saturday's 26-14 victory over Minnesota. Illinois jumped six spots in this week's AP poll after handily defeating Minnesota 26-14.
Chase Brown ran for 180 yards on 41 carries, and became the first running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this season, earning Big Ten offensive player of the week honors in the process. Quarterback Tommy Devito was exceptional, completing 25 of 32 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown. Illinois dominated the line of scrimmage, logging 472 yards of total offense on Minnesota's second ranked scoring defense.
The Illini defense was forceful, recording three interceptions, two sacks and five pass break-ups. Illinois is ranked first in the entire country in scoring defense and total defense.
A special season is on the horizon in Champaign, as Illinois obtains sole possession of first place in the West Division. They control their destiny as they pursue their first division crown. They'll use the bye week to prepare for their Week Nine match at Nebraska.
This week: Bye
2. Michigan Wolverines (7-0)
Result: W, 41-17 vs. No. 10 Penn State
Previous power ranking: 2
Analysis: The Wolverines' offense punished Penn State with 563 total yards and nearly 42 minutes of possession. Michigan's run game was overwhelming, gaining 418 yards on 55 carries. Aside from a second quarter interception which Penn State returned for a touchdown, Michigan was firmly in control of this game.
The Wolverines wanted to make a statement against their toughest opponent to date, and they succeeded, holding the Nittany Lions to just 10 offensive points. Michigan's defense allowed just 12 passing completions, logging five quarterback hurries and three pass deflections.
They'll use their bye week to prepare for a battle with Michigan State in Week Nine.
This week: Bye
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0)
Previous power ranking: 1
Analysis: No. 2 Ohio State had a bye last week. The Big Ten's top team will host Iowa on Saturday morning, hoping to avenge a 31-point loss in their most recent matchup.
Averaging nearly 50 points scored per game compared to Iowa's 15, The Buckeyes enter the match as 29-point favorites.
This week: Hosts Iowa
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